Members of the state House of Representatives seem confused - they appear to believe there's a constitutional right to keep and bear cell phones while driving. How else to explain their reluctance to ban the use of hand-held cell phones or the sending of text messages while driving?
No doubt exists that these activities are a dangerous distraction for drivers. Among the studies that say so is one in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997 that found talking on a cell phone makes a driver four times more likely to have an accident, a rate comparable to drunken driving.
Accident reports tell the tale. Since 2002, according to Rep. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat from Montgomery County who's been pushing a ban, nearly 7,000 accidents in the state occurred while a driver was holding a communications device. Lastly, the lawmakers' constituents know the evidence of their own eyes.
Studies, statistics, the common knowledge of the people they represent ... all this counted for nothing this week when an amendment was offered to a bill that aims to change the requirements for teen drivers in the interests of safety. By a vote of 100-95, the House defeated Mr. Shapiro's bid to allow police to stop drivers they see using hand-held cell phones and write a $50 ticket.
The excuses dissenting legislators came up with would be comical if the results weren't likely to be so dangerous. Some legislators did not want to pick on this obvious, proven distraction when others - such as applying makeup, eating fast food - were not targeted.
Perhaps not wanting to appear completely obtuse, the House did vote overwhelmingly to impose an additional $50 fine if a motorist is caught driving carelessly while using a hand-held cell phone - an effort equivalent to mandate the closing of the barn door after the horse has fled.
Maybe this message ought to be texted to lawmakers who are blind to reason: Cell phones don't kill people, but cell phones in the hands of drivers can. What part of that don't you understand?